Urgency. It’s just not something you feel on a Rottnest Island holiday. There’s no traffic, no commitments, no early morning rush (with the exception, perhaps, of the doughnut run at the bakery). So, it seems only fitting, then, that it’s taken a good 30 years for new accommodation to grace the isle.
Next week, Discovery Rottnest Island opens to the public on Rottnest Island, which sits just off the coast from Perth. The much-talked-about eco-property has been six years and $20 million in the making – a joint venture between Discovery Holiday Parks and Perth’s Baileys Group. The idea behind the development, which is tucked behind the rolling dunes of Pinky Beach, was to bring affordable resort-style lodgings to Rottnest – sans bricks and mortar.
“Our vision was to develop accommodation sensitive to the Rottnest environment, designed how Rottnest people like to holiday,” says Baileys Group director Guy Bailey. “This led to our push for glamping.”
The result? Eighty-three permanent tents with extra comforts such as bathrooms, plush bedding and sleek kitchenettes. Flexibility is the name of the game here, with six different tent configurations, some geared towards families with bunkbeds and adjoining rooms, others better suited to couples, with ocean outlooks and balconies that spill out onto the sand. There are communal al fresco cooking areas peppered throughout the grounds and a 160-seat beach club for those who’d prefer to hang-up their aprons.
Despite its roaring popularity, Rottnest is known for its light environmental footprint. Around 45 per cent of the island’s power is generated renewably and much of its water comes from its own wastewater treatment plant. Discovery is slated to attract an additional 28,000 visitors to the island per year, so strong measures have been taken to keep its impact low.
Each tent is raised and walkways have been carefully placed to reduce soil degradation. A revegetation program ensures the protection of local plants, and the once-disintegrating dunes that fringe the beachfront have been thoughtfully re-enforced. The rooms are positioned to capture the sea breeze, omitting the need for air conditioning. Water comes from Discovery’s own onsite wastewater pond. And what about the quokkas? Well, they’re free to roam in and out of the property at their own leisure, as the entire site is borderless.
What separates a normal tent from a luxury tent? Try fluffy raised beds, for starters. Then throw in sophisticated ensuite bathrooms, smart interiors and – if you’re going the super-luxe option – floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors and a walk-in wardrobe. There’s also wi-fi, family tents with separate children’s quarters, and four wheelchair-accessible tents with space for carers.
Rottnest accommodation is often paired with a hefty price tag, but Discovery’s rates are set to challenge this, with prices starting from $119 per night in the low season. There are three tiers of accommodation: entry-level Base Camp tents which sleep two people, the fancier Tuart tents with king-sized beds and kitchenettes, and the spacious, seaside Deluxe Dune tents with double-vanity bathrooms and some of the best vistas on the island. Rottnest faithfuls will be relieved to know that booking a tent is as simple as clicking a button online – no lotteries involved.
Discovery’s bar and restaurant, Pinky’s Beach Club, is open to in-house and outside guests alike. The breezy space, with its pared-back concrete-and-timber highlights and curved lines, sits neatly between a beachfront lawn and a native garden that adjoins the campsite. The food, courtesy of Mona alumnus Karl Wulf, is all about freshness: poke bowls with locally-caught fish; ferments and pickles; popping heirloom tomato salads; cheesy nduja toasties made from Rottnest Bakery sourdough.
“We’re really looking forward to implementing fermented, cured, pickled, and really playing on the eco tag,” says Wulf, who also wants to “make sure all our producers are doing the right thing, looking after their animals and all the produce the right way.”
There’s fun to be had in the drinks department, too.
“The first entire section of our wine list is sparkling wines and champagnes that are all rosé,” says food and beverage manager Stephen Hollow. “So, what we try to focus on is different rosé styles all around the world, particularly from Australia and Western Australia.”
But don’t overlook the cocktails, served from two beach-facing bars – the Negroni made with West Winds gin (distilled in Margret River) is a highlight.
Don’t leave without
Kicking back by the beach club’s 30-metre pool, replete with its own bar. For those who’d rather get salty, direct access to Pinky Beach makes ocean swimming easy. Rottnest is car-free, and exploring the island by foot or bicycle is a joy. Every Discovery tent is fitted with secure bike-storing facilities, and if you’re new to the island, the concierge can point you towards one of its many cycling routes, walking trails and other natural adventures.
Discovery Rottnest Island is now open. Bookings can be made online.
This article was updated on April 27, 2019. Some details may have changed since publication.